As men are moving to towns and cities looking for better opportunities, women are looking after the farms abandoned by their men. On Wednesday many of these female farmers approached the government to seek the safety of their land rights.
In India, women own disturbingly low percentage of land while doing two-third of the entire farm work. This happens because of the ownership issue as land passes from fathers to son leaving women without property.
“At a time when there is rapid feminisation of Indian agriculture, the data needs to reflect women farmers’ work,” Soma Parthasarathy of women farmers’ rights, Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
She further said,“Women have the greater work load, yet their rights are more insecure.” Soma is a part of the delegation of women in the capital fighting to get equal land rights for women.
“Our main demand is delinking land rights ownership from the definition of a farmer as the government does not recognize women as farmers,”
“Their names must appear in the land and cultivation records so they can finally gain a legitimate identity as farmers.”
Problems faced by the female farmers
There are a plethora of problems with not giving women equal status as men when it comes to land rights. Their names don’t appear on title deeds and the government lists them as ‘cultivators’ and not farmers. This bars them from applying for loans, insurance and other state benefits.
“Our main demand is delinking land ownership from the definition of a farmer as the government does not recognize women as farmers,” said the prominent campaigner, who is leading the delegation at the New Delhi meeting.
And while women can inherit land, social structure is such that they seldom exercise their right. The deep-rooted patriarchy keeps women from claiming their rights while doing most of the work. Married women find it hard to inherit farm from their husband.
“It is important that women get individual rights over land. They must also get access to common lands, forest land and grazing grounds to secure their livelihoods,” said Parthasarathy.
In 2011, father of India’s ’Green Revolution’ M.S. Swaminathan drafted a bill granting women equal rights to land to boost farm production. However, the legislators did not pass it.
Some states have provision to give land to landless poor. But women’s names seldom appear on the legal papers indicating them as owners.
“The system itself is not geared to protect a woman farmer’s rights,” Parthasarathy said.
Picture credits- Agropedia